mamata banerjee football
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Sports Minister Arup Biswas, Minister in Charge Municipal Affairs and Urban Development Department Firhad Hakim, former football player Shyamthapa with others during East Bengal Day celebration in Kolkata, on Aug 1, 2016.IANS

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has asked why India has not been able to produce players like Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona or Pele. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo raised the issue while announcing financial aid for football clubs from Bengal.

As many as 13 clubs from Calcutta (now Kolkata), which includes heavyweights Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting, will be given Rs 50 lakh each for their development, said Banerjee on the 97th Foundation Day of East Bengal on Monday.

"Football clubs here are going through a financial crisis," Banerjee said. "In spite of our our limited resources, the government will provide 13 top city-based clubs, excluding the office clubs, a grant of INR 50 lakh each in 2016 and 2017."

"I have tasked [Bengal] sports minister (Arup Biswas) to form an expert committee and draw up a 10-year plan to promote sports in the state. Let's start with football. We are helping these clubs on an experimental basis and will see how the scheme works," Banerjee said.

The Bengal Chief Minister also promised that the most successful club in the history of the Calcutta Football League (CFL), East Bengal, will be given plenty of financial support to develop their own ground. "I have seen the stadium from outside. A lot of work has been done. Floodlights will also be installed here. Our government will grant the club an extra INR 2 crore to complete the renovation work as quickly as possible," she added.

Didi, as she is fondly referred, also mentioned that hosting the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 in Kolkata is a great matter of pride, before putting forward the million-dollar question. "We are going to host matches of the Under-17 World Cup football in 2017. This is will be a matter of pride for the people of India as well as Bengal. Football is the best game, football is in our blood. Why can't we have a Diego Maradona, Ronaldinho or Lionel Messi from Bengal?" questioned Banerjee.